3 Helpful Toothbrush Tips And Aids For The Elderly

Oral hygiene is very important at any age. Despite the inconvenience of aging, regular brushing of the teeth should not be forgotten. Keep on reading for some helpful toothbrush tips and aids for the elderly for you to look into.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
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Toothbrush Tips Elderly
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Product recommendations are based on my personal experience working with seniors. I may earn a commission on items purchased from affiliate links in this guide. 

Most of us begin learning the importance of oral hygiene at a very young age. Our parents start with gentle brushing, often using their finger or a fingertip toothbrush.

As teenagers, we should already have a standard routine that involves brushing at least twice a day: once after breakfast and once before bed. 

There’s never an age when dental care becomes unnecessary. Oral hygiene and teeth brushing only become more important the older we get. Our bodies become weaker, cells begin to die, and the risk for various health conditions becomes much higher.

If you’re a senior or care for a senior, then regular brushing of the teeth should be an important focus each day.

Unfortunately, it can also become more difficult to brush your teeth regularly as you age. Mental, physical, and mobility issues can present serious obstacles.

We’ve compiled a list of tips, techniques, and brushing aids that can make the process more manageable despite the inconvenience of aging.

toothbrush tips elderly time and technique
Use the proper technique and timing when brushing your teeth.

Time And Technique

Ensuring you are brushing your teeth with the proper technique and for the correct amount of time is the perfect place to start. We may learn about brushing while we are young, but many people forget some of the important details as they age.

Furthermore, many adults feel like they live busy lives and cannot spare enough time each night and morning for a proper routine.

The ADA recommends that a person brush their teeth twice a day and spend 2 minutes on each cycle. That has been the standard for a very long time, yet the average person spends less than 45 seconds brushing their teeth.

That means, even when combined, both cycles don’t last as long as a single recommended cycle.

Two minutes is not a particularly long time, though it may feel like it when you’re standing in front of a sync with a toothbrush. Consider setting a timer or playing a song to help measure the time.

While on the subject of time, it’s also important to consider what time of day you are brushing your teeth. Your first brush should be in the morning after breakfast, but not immediately.

You should wait at least 30 minutes after eating before you brush your teeth. The same goes for your nighttime brush. Don’t brush immediately after dinner. Wait until you are ready to go to sleep for the night.

Using the proper technique is just as important as timing. Two minutes of brushing won’t be nearly as effective if you use an improper technique.

One mistake that adults often make is brushing too hard. This can be extremely problematic for seniors who suffer from sensitive teeth and gums. Brushing too hard can also wear down on the enamel, which is already in short supply for many seniors.

When brushing, the brush head should be at a 45-degree angle compared to the gumline. Move the brush in small circular motions while applying gentle pressure.

If you take the time to brush carefully along each tooth, then those 2 minutes will be over before you know it. Finally, spit the toothpaste out but do not immediately rinse. You should wait at least 30 minutes to rinse to allow the fluoride to work.

Notice that the proper time and technique have nothing to do with “where” you brush your teeth. If you’re a senior who suffers from mobility issues, then you may not be able to stand in front of a sync for the entire session, and there’s no rule that says you have to.

You can brush your teeth anywhere in the home, even in a seated position.

All that’s required is that you have a toothbrush, toothpaste, a glass of water, and somewhere to spit. The idea of brushing at the kitchen table might seem odd when you’re in your 20s.

However, for seniors, being able to sit down while they brush may be the only way they commit to the routine.

toothbrush tips elderly right
There are noticeable differences between traditional manual toothbrushes and other types of toothbrushes.

Finding The Right Toothbrush

Dozens of different types, sizes, and styles of toothbrushes have appeared over the last century. Some seniors prefer the traditional manual toothbrushes that they used when growing up. These can often be purchased for less than one dollar at most stores.

Even small differences in price can make a noticeable difference when purchasing a manual toothbrush. You’ll notice a difference in comfort, quality, and effectiveness when comparing a $1 brush to a $6.

Some of the important factors to consider for the elderly include the bristles and the handle grip.

Tough, cheap bristles are far more likely to hurt sensitive gums. That’s why fingertip toothbrushes with gentle, silicone bristles have become very popular with the elderly in recent years. A finger toothbrush may be a wise investment if traditional bristles cause significant pain or discomfort.

The handle is important to consider for seniors who suffer from arthritis. A toothbrush with an ergonomic handle will be much easier to hold and move for the recommended 2 minute brushing period.

An electric-powered toothbrush is more expensive but may be more effective in some circumstances. A study published in 2019 clearly outlined the superior effectiveness of powered toothbrushes.

Powered brushes also have larger handles that may be easier to hold, though the increased weight could be problematic.

Then, there are more recent breakthroughs in brushing technology like the SymplBrush. This is an electric mouthpiece toothbrush that makes contact with all of the teeth on a single row at once.

You can brush all of the bottom teeth in roughly 30 seconds since you don’t need to move from one tooth to the next. Repeat that process on the top row, and you’re done.

The SymplBrush isn’t a recommended replacement for all adults quite yet. It’s considered slightly less effective than if you were to take the time to carefully brush each tooth one by one.

However, it is considered a smart alternative for seniors who struggle with regular brushing. It takes less time and doesn’t require manual movement around the mouth.

Other Dental Aids To Utilize

There are many other dental aids that you can add to your oral hygiene routine to improve the health of your teeth and gums. Which aids are right for you will depend on your personal health and preferences.

For example, many seniors deal with a dry mouth regularly. Adding an oral moisturizer to your routine can help eliminate this problem without much additional work.

Halitosis is another dental problem that affects many seniors. Regular brushing is a great way to deal with halitosis, but it’s not the only solution. You can improve the effectiveness of brushing by introducing an oral rinse to your routine.

There are several oral rinses designed specifically to combat bad breath. They help eliminate harmful bacteria while flushing unwanted particles from the mouth.

Flossing is a recommended part of any dental care routine. It’s also one of the most difficult steps for seniors who suffer from arthritis or similar conditions.

A water flosser from a company like Waterpik can help remove particles between the teeth, similar to flossing with string. Again, it’s not 100 percent as effective as the traditional method, but it is much better than not flossing at all.

Summary

Many elements of dental care change as we age. The time and technique may remain the same, but the right type of brush, toothpaste, oral rinse, and other dental aids will often change.

Certain health conditions like diabetes, dementia, and arthritis are likely to impact your willingness or ability to commit to a proper dental routine. Luckily, some of the products and aids mentioned above can help overcome those hurdles and maintain a natural, healthy smile.

Keep Reading About Oral and Tooth Care

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Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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